The guys in the black hats always come out when times are hard, this time to pontificate on why the Free Agent Nation and The New Economy are nothing more than myths invented by an army of pseudo-intellectuals who profit from promulgating this sort of happy horse shit. The irony is that, despite the dot-com implosion, the economy and the dynamics of labor markets have both changed permanently and irrevocably. The much-publicized chasm between the old industrial economy and the new knowledge-based economy is not only real, but will continue to grow in importance, and in a dramatic fashion, for the foreseeable future.
The Internet and the New Economy, while not one and the same, are certainly part of the same positive feedback loop that, along with globalization in its myriad manifestations, are pushing world economies into increasingly un-chartered waters. Bill Gates has been quoted saying that “People are overestimating the importance of the Internet in the next five years, and underestimating its importance in the next twenty.” This statement, taken out of context and on face value, is either clearly wrong, or disingenuous on Bill’s part.
Here’s why. In the next five years the Talent Wars are likely to increase in ferocity and winners will acquire the assets necessary to dominate their respective markets for the next fifty years. We are at an inflection point of immense proportions. This is the kind of discontinuous change that occurs once every thousand years or so. Of the three factors of production (land, labor and capital), labor, in all its incarnations, is about to emerge in a manner that will permanently establish its dominant position. Over time you will see smart labor leveraging the new medium in ways previously unimagined, all to the upside of both the top and bottom lines.
Just as smart software has invaded every nook and cranny of corporate business processes from the plant floor to the executive suite, smart labor will begin to make its presence felt as the key differentiator in industry after industry. So while this chapter focuses on eTeams and eCultures within the software space, it will soon become evident that its applicability is much broader in scope, as corporations struggle with the creative imperative in all aspects of their value chains. As Manuel Castells notes in The Rise Of The Network Society:
Toward the end of the second millennium of the Christian Era several events of historical significance have transformed the social landscape of human life. A technological revolution, centered around information technologies, is reshaping, at accelerated pace, the material basis of society. Economies throughout the world have become globally interdependent, introducing a new form of relationship between, state, and society, in a system of variable geometry.
Though Mr. Castells certainly does not share my views on the importance of labor, he does an eloquent job of describing, in vivid detail; the general social and economic conditions that place smart labor in a position of prominence in my worldview.